“The River”

Last Saturday, after the visit to St. Herman’s Cave, we had been invited to join one of the Women’s Dept Officers (a social worker responsible for seeing folk who drop in, taking people to the Family Court to prepare restraining orders and such like, helping battered women to find secure accommodation, etc) for her sister’s 16th birthday and graduation party. It was held in the local YWCA, and when we arrived there was a disco going, tables covered with coloured cloths, candles and glitter, and various friends, relatives and the birthday girl’s school chums, all arriving in dribs and drabs. After two weeks of hearing dire stories about the break down of relationships it was heartening to see the extended family and friends. There were young nephews and nieces who did ‘turns’ at the front, cousins who loved to sing, and others to dance. The boogying was impressive, whether 3, 13, 33 or 63! It was also a chance to taste homemade local cuisine too! We didn’t stay too late as Conor had pushed himself with his infection still lingering with the jungle trek that afternoon, and needed to rest. But we thoroughly enjoyed the homeliness of it. I could see clones of our 4- 12- 18- year old family members!

On the Sunday the clouds were lowering, with strong downpours and lightening and thunder so we decided to check out the other big hotel – called Princess – a little further around the northern coastline from the Radisson. Well, to not put too fine a point on it, it was gross in parts, good in parts. Large, air conditioned, typical tourist hotel, open foyer, big glass windows looking out onto the sea (it was fun to watch the waves of storm come in squalls, the visibility go, and wait to see where the lightening will be) and a restaurant that looked as if it had a good deal for a 3 course meal at BZ$23 plus tax per person. That’s the plus part. The down side was a pair of glittery doors which opened onto the hugest gambling hall – one armed bandits, gaming machines, poker, roulette tables….We walked through corridors following the signs to the swimming pool – which we wanted to check out to use another time – when we realised that we had to traverse a vast amusement area for children and families. The walls were lined with computer games and loads of kids racing cars here, banging guns there, with the occasional bored parent sitting at a table waiting. There was a bowling alley which actually had a couple of families playing together, and all of it topped with canned music and flashing lights. If I ever want to go to hell I know where to go! (Later we saw two dads join up with two mums who were sitting in the foyer, trailing 4 kids between them. The children all had that starry-eyed, sunken-sockets look of too much screen gazing.) The swimming pool, which we eventually found, was 3 times the size of the one at the Radisson, but we knew which one we were going to use! We remembered that Mark had said that he preferred the Radisson too, and we could see why. As we left, we also spotted a two screen cinema, which Conor decided mightn’t be so bad after all!

After work on Monday, Conor and I realised we have the Belizean equivalent of ‘just checking out the river’s still there’ (when we would go and gaze at the river at Ellemford, seeing the fish jumping, hoping for a glimpse of the heron or kingfisher, and feeling the direction, temperature and strength of the wind). Our apartment (UK2, BZ3) faces the sea. The great thing is that being a taller building and facing east the sea breeze comes straight into our windows – as well as the dust and rain of course, but the wind is precious. When we are standing we can see the sea as it’s only 2 blocks away, with nothing too large between us and it except a few palms and some broad leaved trees. A local told me they are common and easy to propagate but didn’t know its name. And guess what! We go and walk to the sea wall and sit and chat most evenings before going to Brodies for a few bits and pieces. And while we were sitting there Ernesto – the young street artist – came ambling up, drawing Conor this time! We chatted to him for a good forty minutes, and gained further the impression of a nice young man.